Deliberate or accidental

Rescued Filipino fishermen and their destroyed fishing boat.

The ramming of an anchored Filipino fishing boat F/B Gem-Ver 1 on June 9 with 22 personnel near Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and leaving them in peril continues to raise the question whether or not the incident was deliberate or accidental.

That the much bigger and powerful Chinese fishing vessel continued its route and deserted the area as if nothing happened even raises a more profound question about the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea.

But, was the destruction of the F/B Gem-Ver 1 really deliberate or was it accidental?

Until an in-depth neutral third party investigation is conducted we will never know the truth about what really happened.

What seems to muddle the initial account of the incident is the way it is being reported by the media. When different observations and conjectures are being added it distorts the truth that it becomes at times incredible whether or not some events, as told, really happened.

Take for instance the statement/description given that after noticing that the Chinese vessel had hit something, that it turned around to verify what it was and found out that it just sunk a fishing boat with people in the sea shouting for help, only to be abandoned.

If this was the case then the Chinese crew members should be categorically condemned for their barbaric and criminal act. But then again, in the same vein, it was reported that they hurriedly left the area afraid that other Filipino fishermen may gang up on them if they linger further. So, which is which now?

With China now forcefully claiming and converting into a military garrison what is rightfully ours in the WPS, while we leave our fate to God, would they still have the brazenness to destroy the livelihood of our fisher folks?

I for one would like to believe that if China can claim the whole of the South China Sea (SCS), of which the WPS is part of it, with impunity and construct sophisticated military bases even inside Philippine territorial waters just so it can control this part of the world, then one could just imagine how insignificant a third world country and the Filipino race is to them. Talking about arrogance, abuse and disrespect despite the altruism the Philippine government has shown them.

But there is really nothing much that can be done about the maritime incident. Unless proven without doubt by a neutral maritime investigative body that it was accidental rather than deliberate, then so be it. Otherwise the incident will always be construed not only that China’s vessel is culpable for deliberately ramming the Filipino fishing vessel, but that falsehood is also being rammed down our throat.

This is the price we are paying for being poor and powerless.

 

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Imelda’s jewelries for sale

 

Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos

This is one felicitous decision that is most welcome by the Filipino people coming from President Rodrigo Duterte. It takes political will to do it especially knowing that the president continues to have a soft heart for the family of the despot Marcos, while many Filipinos continue to harbor resentment against them.

I am of course referring to Duterte’s approval to auction off one of three jewelry collections recovered from the fleeing family when they arrived at the Honolulu International Airport during the 1986 People Power Revolution. This was particularly dubbed as the Hawaii collection consisting of 400 pieces estimated to be worth more than P700 million.

Whether or not the jewelries for sale are smaller or less expensive pieces compared to the other sequestered collections is not what matters most. What is of greater importance is that Duterte wants the proceeds to benefit the Filipinos in any way it could.

In reality, auctioning off the three jewelry collections should have been done a long time ago so that those who became victims of the repressive regime, and who has gone sooner to their graves may have enjoyed the fruits of retribution.

In fact it would have been more meaningful and symbolic had former Pres. Benigno Aquino III found the gumption to put the whole collections on the auction block during his presidency. His lack of audacity cost him the chance of getting the credit of alleviating the plight of the poor Filipinos with the proceeds that they needed so badly. It would have been a tribute to the family of a martyred patriarch that suffered so much, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Instead it is now Duterte who is getting the accolade for disposing the ill-gotten jewelries. He deserves it, but it is hoped that it won’t stop here. The people would like to see Duterte also ordering, before his term is over, the sale of the Malacañang collection of around 300 pieces that was left behind after the Marcoses fled the Palace and the Roumeliotes collection of 60 major pieces that Imelda’s Greek accomplice, Demetriou Roumeliotes, tried to spirit out of the country a few weeks after the Marcoses’ ouster.

While it is much appreciated that Duterte approved the auctioning of Imelda’s Hawaii collection based on public interest and not on friendship or political alliance, I find it somehow unreasonable, however, that the very same person that the expensive jewelry collection was sequestered from can still participate in the sale by auction. Knowing how filthy rich Imelda is, she can surely outbid the other buyers or use them to bid on her behalf. Thus, it defeats the purpose of having the jewelry collection to be taken out and away from the clutches of the avaricious former first lady.

To say that Imelda is no longer interested in her sequestered jewelries is absurd, if not a distortion of reality. It is probably what is motivating her to stay much longer in politics so she could have the chance to fulfill once more her evil desire to be reunited with her long seized treasures.

Fishing moratorium

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

It not only boggles my mind, but I am also disappointed, as all Filipinos should be, that the outspoken Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr did not chime in to support Hanoi’s opposition against Beijing’s imposition of its annual fishing moratorium in the South China Sea, which also includes the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

This after the Chinese agricultural ministry announced the start of the annual fishing ban on May 1 and will last until August 16.

The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry condemned China’s unilateral fishing ban, pointing out that it violates Hanoi’s sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and contradicts the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“Vietnam opposes and resolutely rejects China’s unilateral fishing ban decision,” Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said.

But since China does not honor the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) nor does it respect the July 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea then I would suppose that this fishing ban will be imposed strictly.

What is even unconscionable here is that the unilateral fishing ban also violates the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea between Beijing and Southeast Asian nations.

So in the same manner that Vietnamese fishermen are prevented from fishing in what it considers as its own territory, the Paracel Islands, Filipino fishermen has also to observe the fishing moratorium decreed by China in our country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), most especially in the rich fishing ground of Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal).

It is therefore in this context that I wish the tough talking and candid Locsin could have issued a resounding protest echoing that of the Vietnamese government, if only to remind the contemptuous Chinese officials that we are a sovereign nation that respects the rule of law and not their subjects.

It is bad enough that the Filipino fishermen are being harassed and monitored closely by Chinese forces in their own fishing ground, but it is even worse that a despotic unilateral fishing ban is demanded on poor and powerless nation like the Philippines whose daily catches could not compare with the volume of catch per day China’s armada of fishing vessels make in the disputed areas of the WPS.

Not being able to go fishing until August 16 is a long time for folks who rely on this kind of livelihood to take care of their families. But it is never too long for Locsin to come out and lodge his protest.

Roxas and the Mamasapano issue

 

Pres. Duterte and former DILG Sec. Mar Roxas

It may be seemingly unfair for President Duterte to be blaming then Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary and now senatorial candidate Mar Roxas for the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers in the botched police operation that happened four years ago.

Having been left out of the loop by his boss, former President Aquino, during the whole secretive and highly-sensitive planning operation dubbed Oplan Exodus, which sole purpose was to carry out the arrest of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan” and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman who were reported lurking in Mamasapano, a Muslim rebel territory in the province of Maguindanao, Roxas never had any inkling what was going on behind his back until the shit finally hit the fan, so to speak.

One can still imagine Roxas’ face with mouth agape, unbelieving and stunned of the crisis he was in an instant facing as Interior Secretary.

In defending Roxas from Duterte’s culpability attack on the Mamasapano massacre, Sen. Francis Pangilinan reasoned out that what the president was doing was “pure politicking”, considering that the Senate had already investigated the incident and charges have already been filed in court.

“Raising the matter anew is pure and simple politicking, and a means to shun important and pressing issues affecting the Filipinos such as poverty, lack of opportunities, indignation over China’s aggression, and corruption hounding many of the administration candidates,” said Pangilinan in a statement.

Well, Pangilinan should really be putting the money where his mouth is for the truth is that to Roxas, the Mamasapano issue continues to be his political liability for not being man enough to confront Pres. Aquino on why he was excluded from a highly-sensitive Oplan Exodus meeting. but chose instead to connive, trust and discuss covertly the SAF mission with the suspended Police Gen. Alan Purisima .

Why the mistrust in Aquino’s own Interior Secretary and the latter’s PNP OIC chief, Lt. Gen. Leonardo Espina?

Roxas could have made something of himself if he only stood up to Aquino and defended his name, his reputation and the dignity of his office. After being wittingly ignored and disrespected, the least that he could have done was submit a courtesy resignation and the people would have lauded him for that. In fact had he turn his back on Aquino and left government he could have given Duterte a stiff competition during the 2016 presidential election.

Thus, Roxas spineless demeanor on the Mamasapano issue, where he in fact supported Aquino’s  action, continue to be a matter of contention in the May 2019 election that is being exploited to the hilt by Duterte because of his weak leadership.

With regards to other issues which Pangilinan considers ‘important and pressing’, like China’s aggression, poverty, lack of opportunities and corruption, well, as Liberal Party (LP) president, he should be the first one to admit that Duterte is addressing these problems better and more successfully than his party-mate Aquino during his time.

 

A Songbird’s discordant voice

This is a compelling interjection I am making after reading Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez’s remark insulting the intelligence of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin when the latter said that the Philippines and China must not go to war over some kind of shellfish, but that China should just pay for it.

The bone of contention here is actually about the giant clams being harvested by China with impunity in the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal), which the Philippines claims to be part of its territory. Note that this is the same controversial shoal that used to be the rich source of livelihood and haven for Filipino fishermen during inclement weather until China took control of it, claiming it as belonging to their territorial waters in the South China Sea (SCS).

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin

“I am not going down in history as a clam defender, okay? It’s a complaint; we’re looking into it; but these are just fucking food; no one goes to war for clams (maybe Oysters of Locquemariaquer) but they just happen to be OUR food. They should pay for them like in fish market,” Locsin said.

This of course did not sit well for Velasquez especially that it sounded to her more like a sick joke coming from an intelligently irrepressible Locsin. I don’t think she has a clear knowledge of who Locsin is really.

“Ang akala ko pa naman matalino ka. Ako ay simpling tao lamang na may simpleng pagiisip,” Velasquez said in a tweet on Friday. (And I thought you were smart/clever. I am just a simple person with simple thoughts.)

“These people are invading our territory they are not just taking food sinisira nila ang ating karagatan!!!!” (…. they are destroying our seas!!!), she added.

Well, the reality is that having “simple thoughts” is what makes war, and that is precisely what Locsin is trying to avoid knowing both the economic and military might of China that our country is being subjected to.

Thus, it is best for the Songbird of Asia to just concentrate on what she does best and leave the diplomatic tussle to the knowledgeable. Her discordant voice in foreign relation is distasteful and therefore unwelcome, more so that her rhetoric has no basis at all.

Former Pres. Benigno Aquino

The fact is that had the Aquino government in 2012 handled the Scarborough Shoal controversy against China with utmost prudence, the rich fishing ground of Panatag Shoal could still have been accessible to our fishermen today. Note that the shoal has also been the fishing grounds of Chinese fishermen and there existed a ‘peaceful coexistence’ between them until the Philippine Navy surveillance ship started flexing its muscles and ordered their sailors to board eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in the shoal’s lagoon. They tried to arrest the Chinese fishermen for illegal fishing and “harvesting endangered marine species.” However, two China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) ships come to their rescue creating a standoff.

What made the standoff even unwise is when then President Aquino ordered the frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a newly refurbished warship from the US Coast guard, to the area to confront the Chinese at Panatag.

What happened next was that more CMS ships entered the shoal, bringing with them a flotilla of 31 Chinese fishing boats and 50 dinghies. The number of CMS vessels in the days that followed increased to 10.

Outwitted, the the BRP Gregorio del Pilar left on the pretext that it was going “to replenish fuel and food provisions” in its base in La Union.But why send a warship when CMS vessels are officially civilian, part of its Ministry of Transport’s Maritime Safety Administration?

Since then no Filipino ship or fishing vessel has been able to enter the shoal, now occupied by CMS vessels and Chinese fishing boats. The Chinese imposed a 15-nautical mile restriction perimeter around the shoal, and prevents any vessel from going into the shoal’s lagoon.

Disrespecting with impunity

President Duterte and the Pag-asa Island from the air.

With the military might of China well entrenched in the West Philippine Sea, the Chinese arrogance and aggressiveness towards our country has never been as opprobrious as it is today.

It seems that China’s unimpeded stay in the disputed waters have given the occupants the entitlement to do what it pleases them even to the extent of violating and disrespecting the rights of a poor and disadvantaged country like the Philippines.

But we can only take so much of the despotic attitude of China’s leadership, thus, it is only appropriate that President Rodrigo Duterte be commended for standing up against China at the time when his strong leadership is urgently needed.

This, after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has reported that a surge of Chinese vessels have been circling Pag-asa Island since January 2019.

Accordingly, this corroborates an earlier report by the Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative that China deployed Chinese militia to the vicinity of said island after the Philippines began building a beaching ramp for large navy cargo ships for easier unloading of construction materials for the repairs of military facility like the Rancudo Airfield and even the building of a safe harbor which is a project of the local government.

Pag-asa Island is a 37-hectare island, the largest of the Kalayaan Island Group territories claimed by the Philippines and is part of the municipality of Palawan. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 184 people. Aside from an airstrip, it has a commercial communications tower, power generators, a 5-bed lying-in clinic and a small elementary school.

There is no doubt that the commanding presence of Chinese flotilla in the area is not only to monitor what is being done in the island, but its show of intimidating force is simply sending an explicit message and warning that it is the Filipinos that are the intruders in what is now their exclusive maritime territory according to their own historical facts, which for all intents and purposes have been debunked by The Hague tribunal.

Each one of the militia vessel seems to echo the mantra of unjustified ownership that ‘what is ours is ours and what is yours is ours too’!

This abusive and despotic behavior certainly does not sit well with Filipinos as China’s action not only violates our country’s sovereignty, but most of all it disrespects with impunity human value and decency.

Thankfully, it has finally dawn on President Duterte that even his deportment as being non-confrontational towards China in the WPS is being taken advantage of and, thus, it is inspiriting to know that the president is reacting the way many people wants him to do, including those in the opposition, by strongly pushing back at the Chinese machination in Pag-asa Island.

It is good to receive investment help from China to finance Duterte’s economic Build, Build, Build agenda, which could be the start of an infrastructure boom in the Philippines, but it is quite the contrary when the dignity of the Filipino, as a race, is being debased and disrespected with impunity in his own turf.

Messi is ‘D10S’

Lionel Messi

There is no doubt Lionel Messi is a great football player. Others even rank him ahead of Pele, Diego Maradona and Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still an active competitor now.

How else would you rank Messi except as the best considering that the 31-year-old has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, where he has won nine league titles, six Copa del Rey honors and four UEFA Champions League winner’s medals? On top of that he has five Ballon d’Or awards to his name. The Ballon d’Or award honors the male player deemed to have performed the best over the previous year, based on voting by football journalists.

Messi also inspired Barcelona to an historic treble-winning season on two occasions, securing the league, cup and Champions League in 2008/09 and 2014/2015.

No wonder Barcelona fans are calling him ‘D10S’! DIOS?

Well, not really. That is just how the fanatical fans of Messi chant when he is playing to their excitement and satisfaction. Fans can be adoringly imaginative and this is how the name came about when they replaced and inserted the number 10 of Messi’s jersey to still read and sound like you are saying the name God, or DIOS in Spanish, in vain.

But is it really a sacrilege as Pope Francis, a fellow Argentinian, warns the football fans? I don’t think so.

Everybody knows that Messi is not God – in their minds, hearts and souls.

But it just so happen that there is an artistic way of calling Messi that would push him further to play more sensational than he already is to the delight of his fans and that is by exquisitely replacing the two letters with numbers in the word DIOS to ‘D10S’ to be shouted at the top of their lungs!

That is all there is to it.